Canine Acute Moist Hot Spots


Hot spots are a widespread oozing area of inflamed skin.  If caught in the early stages, it is possible for an owner to treat successfully with a trip to the vets.  Treat Hot Spots by:

1.   Clipping away fur untill healthy skin is apparent.

2.   Cleanse area to remove all exudates and debris, such as scabs and to cool the skin.  Your vet will possibly prescribe Hibi Scrub for this. Alternatively you can try one teaspoon of salt in a pint of warm water

3.   Topical treatment such as Fuciderm obtained from your vet applied twice daily

4.  A 5 day course of antibiotics given orally

Possible Causes
Site of Hot Spot
Impacted Anal Sacs

Ear Infection

Insect sting/bite
At Base of Tail

Near Ear Opening

Empty Anal Sacs

Treat Ear Infection

Eliminate Insect

Hot Spots, Just What are These Anyway
Acute Moist Dermatitis
Hot Spots

Hot Spots! Just What Are These, Anyway?

You make an appointment with your veterinarian because your dog is chewing incessantly at some wet, raw looking skin lesion.   And it seems to be noticeably bigger than it was just hours ago.  This is getting to look nasty.   You show it to your neighbor and they say your dog has a "Hot Spot".  What the heck is that, you ask?

Also known as Summer Sores or Moist Eczema, Hot Spots can seemingly appear spontaneously anywhere on a dog's body and the area involved can rapidly spread.  This moist, raw skin disorder has a variety of causes but the most consistent factor is bacteria. There are a number of kinds of bacteria that can be cultured from a "hot spot" and fortunately most respond to oral and topical antibiotics. Anything that irritates or breaks the skin can create the environment for bacterial contamination if the skin surface has just a bit of moisture on it.  That moisture can be present from a recently given bath, from swimming or being out in the rain, from rolling in wet grass or even from a slightly oozing sore that provides nutrients for bacteria.  For some reason, cats rarely acquire Hot Spots; dermatological problems in our feline friends are far less common than in the dog.

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Lets take a look at some photos of Moist Eczema... you can call them Hot Spots, too.
(Click on the images to enlarge)

This Golden Retriever developed a hot spot under each ear and this severe moist eczema developed in less than 24 hours!  Both ears and both sides of the dog's face needed to be clipped and cleaned while under light anesthesia.
Treatment continued with topical peroxide every two hours, systemic antibiotics to combat the deep skin infection and a single, short acting corticosteroid to stop the inflammatory reaction.  Oral antibiotics and topical medication are continued for at least a week, and two weeks is even better.


Below is a view of a minor Hot Spot.  But even this little lesion
could spread rapidly and become as severe as the case above.

A Typical Hot Spot... and How To Treat It
Click on an image to enlarge in a new window

In this photo we can see, now that the fur has been parted, the raw, weeping circular Hot Spot. These often spread under the cover of the fur so that by the time you notice them they are well established and spreading.  This particular case of Moist Eczema may have been caused by a tick bite. The fur is shaved over the moist eczema to facilitate application of medication as well as to allow drying.
An area well beyond the margins of the lesion should be shaved.  That tiny black spot at the top of the Hot Spot is an area where the skin has actually died and may be where a tick was attached.  Why one tick will trigger Moist Eczema and others won't is still a mystery.  If every tick bite caused this much reaction the magnitude of skin problems in dogs would be staggering!
 Daily cleaning of the Hot Spot, even every two hours for the first day or two, will speed up the healing.   Also, any topical anti-bacterial ointment will arrest the growth of the bacteria.   These skin lesions can take a week to finally dry and look like they are going to heal.  Once they are no longer oozing, simply keeping the Hot Spot area clean will be all that's needed.  The fur begins to grow back (sometimes a different color!) within two weeks.
 This severe case of active moist eczema on a Golden Retriever (different from the case displayed above) shows how extensive the infection can be and the degree of damage a Hot Spot can do to the skin of a dog.  This case has been shaved and cleaned; vigorous treatment with antibiotics and cleansers is started.   Rarely will a scar be a consequence of Hot Spots but scarring can happen. 

Veterinary medical attention is needed with these cases!


So, now you know about Hot Spots, Moist Eczema and Summer Sores.  They really do seem much more prevalent in the summer months.  They can cause severe itching and self-trauma because the infection goes hotspot4small into the deep layers  of the skin.  That's why Hot Spots may take two weeks to finally look like they are going to heal.   On occasion if a dog has extensive and deep areas of Moist Eczema, oral antibiotics and antihistamines may need to be prescribed and large areas of skin will be shaved.

Watch for these skin sores and keep your dog well groomed especially in hot seasons. Any dog that has matted, dirty hair coat is at greater risk of developing Hot Spots.  Many owners will have their long or   thick-furred dog shaved closely in the summer.  This really does help prevent the thick coat from covering any dampness on the surface of the skin. By the fur covering any accumulated dampness and not allowing evaporation, the wet skin surface is a perfect environment for bacterial growth and invasion of the skin surface.

This Lick Granuloma on the left may have started as a simple "Hot Spot" on the dog's foreleg.  Repeated infections and irritation from licking have created scar tissue and chronic infection.  A severe Lick Granuloma may result if persistent treatment is not performed.  Hot Spots seem to be mostly a summertime problem but can occur any time.  If your dog needs veterinary help for any skin lesion, don't delay in making that call.

Many types of dermatological problems are avoided if the dog or cat is consuming an optimum diet.  In some cases, adding a supplement such as DermCaps, a popular Omega Fatty Acid supplement with a number of beneficial ingredients, is the key factor in avoiding repeated episodes of Hot Spots and other skin afflictions.  If your dog or cat seems to lack good coat and skin health, consider upgrading the diet to a meat-based ingredient formula and adding a supplement such as DermCaps.  The first ingredient listed in the pet food Ingredient List on the pet food label should be a meat such as chicken, lamb, poultry, beef or fish; if it is corn...pass it up!  Meat based pet food are far superior in nutritional content than grain based pet foods.  For much more information on how to select a proper pet food for your dog or cat, visit the IMPORTANT TOPICS section of

reprinted with kind permission from Dr Dunn

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Acute Moist Dermatitis

contributed by John Macdonald-Cuordha Goldens

"This disorder is caused by self induced trauma as the patient bites, rubs, or scratches at a part of its body in an attempt to alleviate some pain or itch. The majority of cases are complications of flea bite hypersensitivity, but allergic skin diseases, other ectoparasites, anal sac problems, inflammations such as otitis externa (inflamed ears), foreign bodies in the coat, irritant substances, dirty unkempt coats, psychoses and painful musculoskeletal disorders may be underlying causes. Owners usually believe that some factor producing a diet that is too rich may create the problem, but only a severe, essential fatty acid deficiency has been shown to be a cause. These factors initiate the itch-scratch cycle.

The intense trauma produces sever large lesions in a few hours. Animal particularly disposed to this problems are those with a heavy coat that has a dense undercoat, such as Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Collies and St. Bernards. The problem is much more common in hot humid weather and may have something to do with lack of ventilation in the coat. A typical lesion is red, moist and oozing. There is a crust of proteinaceous exudate in the center of the area surrounded by a halo of red skin.

The hair is lost from the area, but the margins are sharply defined from the surrounding normal skin and hair. The lesion progresses rapidly if appropriate therapy is not started at once. Much pain is associated with the local area, and this may eventually deter the animal from further trauma. Lesions are often located in close proximity to the primary painful process, i.e., near infected ears, anal sacs and flea bites on the rump.

A study of the type of bacteria found in lesions of pyotraumatic dermatitis reveals multiple organisms, with Staphyloccus intermedius being the most common. It also showed that the St. Bernard and Golden Retriever dogs tended to have a deeper pus producing infection. Diagnosis is made by the history of acute onset, the physical appearance, and the association with a more or less primary cause. If the condition is persistent or recurrent, consider bacterial hair follicle inflammation, fungal infections, demodex infections, yeast infections or neoplasia (lymphosarcoma or sweat gland carcinoma) as differential diagnoses. True pyotraumatic dermatitis is a relatively flat, eroded to ulcerated lesion. Lesions that are thickened. plaque like and bordered by papules (bumps) and or pustules should always suggest a primary eruptive process, especially a staphylococcal infection.

Therapy is effective if applied promptly and vigorously. Sedation or anesthesia is usually needed to allow thorough cleansing of the area. Cleansing is the first and most important step in local therapy. The hair is clipped away from the lesion and the skin is thoroughly cleaned with a mild antiseptic solution or scrub such as povidone-iodine. A single application of 5% tannic acid and 5% salicylic acid in 70% alcohol is used as an astringent. This can be followed by wet soaks with 5% aluminum acetate (Domeboro solution) applied three or four times daily for 10 minutes each time. This action is drying, astringent and antiseptic. Topical application of antibiotic cream three times daily is useful. Five days of systemic corticosteroids in anti-inflammatory doses (prednisolone 1.1 mg/kg SID) is useful in alleviating the pruritis, pain and local inflammation. As the lesion becomes dry and crusted, topical medication should be changed to softening creams and emollients. At the time of the initial treatment, it is most important to find the predisposing factor and eliminate or modify it to stop the patient's reflex self-trauma. The treatment to accomplish this varies, depending on the primary cause.

Clients always clamor for ways to prevent future lesions, since some unfortunate dogs may have repeated problems. There is no simple means of prevention. However, constant attention to grooming, hygiene, baths and parasite control and periodic cleaning of the ears and anal sacs will help. Owners should be particularly vigilant during periods of hot, humid weather. Although diet is often suggested as a cause, except for severe fatty acid deficiency or food hypersensitivity this has never been proven."

The above article was taken from "Small Animal Dermatology, Fourth edition and was authored by Muller, Kirk and Scott.
reprinted with kind permission from John Chandler,
Secretary/Webmaster, ACDSCNQ
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Hot Spots

 Tiffani M. Beckman,
Vet Asst. & Student of Veterinary Medicine

Hotspots (also called moist dermatitis or lick granulomas) are unfortunately becoming common in every breed - and in mixed breeds - of dog. They are usually symptoms of something else going wrong internally, and need to be looked at as warning signs.  Hotspots have many different causes.  Your vet should be able to help you pinpoint the problem. A change in diet is almost always the best bet - most dogs on a natural, raw diet do not develop hotspots, or if they do it is part of the detox reaction. Here are some common things to help hotspots to heal without suppressing the immune system:

 1. Apply a cool slice of cucumber to the area.  Let the dog eat it when it warms up - it works well on the outside as well as on the inside.

2. Brew a cup of chamomile tea, leaving the tea bag in the cup to cool.  When tea is cool, use tea bag to apply the tea to the area. Let dog drink tea - it works to soothe on the outside (the tannic acid in tea also acts like an astringent) and calms them when they drink it.

3. Shave the area around the hotspot to get air to it and help it dry.

4. Aloe Vera gel, freshly squeezed from the plant, helps to calm and heal. It can be ingested as well to work on the inside.

5. Internally, echinacea, Vitamin C and garlic all help to boost the immune system. Garlic should be given fresh, about 1 clove per day for 5 days for medium to large-sized dogs, decreasing in amount for smaller dogs, but should not be given to really young pups or to dogs with anemia problems. Echinacea should be given for 5 days, rest for 2, then give for 5 days again. Give vitamin C up to bowel tolerance.

6. Sometimes a hotspot is indicative of a chiropractic problem. An appointment with a certified animal chiropractor can often help.

7. Here's a recipe to make up and store in the refrigerator - 1/2 cup very strong tea, 1 cup rubbing alcohol, and 2 crushed aspirin. Stir this up and soak the hotspot with it several times a day until gone.  This may sting a bit with an open sore, so use a bit at a time to make sure it doesn't sting too much.

8. Sprinkle goldenseal powder on the animal's food and in the water, scaling the human dosage down to the animal's weight. Do not use too much or for more than 5 days on, 2 days off. You can also apply the goldenseal root to the hotspot, just make a weak tea out of it. Is perfectly fine if it is licked off. Never use goldenseal if pregnant.

9. Put a large handful of spearmint or peppermint leaves in a glass container and cover with distilled white vinegar. Allow to steep at room temp for 2 weeks. Shake from time to time. Strain.  Apply the liquid to any sore on the animal and to clean wounds; this also stops itching and allows wounds to heal. Do not use mint if you are also giving a homeopathic remedy - the mint might cancel it out.

10. Apply Willard Water (diluted) to the hotspot.

11. Ask a homeopathic vet about Radium Bromatum - it may be indicated.

12. Try a Bach Flower Remedy - Crab Apple. It is specifically indicated for skin problems such as hotspots. If the cause of the hotspot is emotionally related, check into other flower remedies. There are many to choose from and can help heal the troubles that reside inside.

13. Rescue remedy applied directly on the hotspot.

14. Calendula cream or hyper/cal (hypericum and calendula) cream applied directly to hotspot. 

15. Here is a nice recipe for all icky skin - 1 quart water, 1 heaping tsp. dried sage, 1 heaping tsp.thyme, and 1/4 tsp. Epsom salt. Boil everything together ~ 5 minutes and then let it sit overnight. Strain off the herbs and refrigerate unused portion. You can also add it to shampoo and make a "medicated" shampoo. Usable as a rinse for ant bites, bumps, hot spots, fleas, etc. Thanks to Karen Perdue for this great recipe! 

As you can see, none of these are drugs, which suppress the immune system.  Suppressing the immune system is not recommended, because it only drives the problem deeper into the body, and the next symptom may not be hotspots but something much more serious. If your dog chews on herself out of boredom - give her a job to do! A large meaty bone, more exercise, more training - this can help break the cycle of a lick granuloma.  The healthier you make the body, the fewer problems you are going to see.  And a properly made home diet is the best and easiest way to boost the immune system. 

Tiffani Beckman
This article is Copyright © 1998 No reprints without expressed permission.
**Disclaimer - I am not a vet.  Please check with your vet before trying any new treatments or diets.**
reprinted with kind permission from Tiffani M Beckman

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The above information is simply informational. It's intent is not to replace the advice of a veterinarian nor to assist you in making a diagnosis of your pet. Please consult with your own veterinarian for confirmation of any diagnosis. Your pets life may depend on it.